Storey County facing lawsuit
Storey County and county Public Works Director, Richard Bacus, were named in a lawsuit, filed Friday in United States District Court that claims the county violated the first amendment rights of Virginia City resident James Reed.
Reed and his attorney, Andy Boles, are asking for $150,000 in general, punitive and special damages in addition to attorney’s fees, nominal damages and injunctive relief.
According to the complaint, Bacus acted in an official capacity to chill Reed’s right to exercise free speech through retaliation.
“Storey County ratified and encouraged this behavior and thereby adopted and incorporated this conduct,” the complaint said.
The issues arose after a sewage spill on Flowery Street, near Reed’s home June 20. Reed filmed the spill and the film ultimately became part of the evidence used by the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection’s Water Pollution Control Bureau.
According to Reed, he was sought out by both the Division and the Nevada Department of Transportation concerning the matter. He called the Occupational Safety and Health Administration because he was concerned about two of the men exposed to the waste and the plot thickened.
Following the incident, the county’s Public Works Department reclassified his residence as commercial and raised monthly water and sewer rates from a residential rate of $15.20 to the commercial rate of $72.50.
The action was taken at the time based on the fact that Reed, a counseling therapist, takes in families and/or clients who need temporary housing, free of charge, argued county officials when.
The department also proposed rerouting nearby Flowery Street, which would force Reed to remove part of the porch from his home.
In the claim for injunctive relief, the lawsuit states the county should cease retaliatory actions involving tax increases and stop efforts to re-align the street.
In a previous meeting, Storey County Commissioners shelved plans to move the road and at their Sept. 17 meeting, rescinded Reed’s commercial rates.
Neither Richard Bacus nor the Storey County District Attorney’s Office could be reached for comment Friday afternoon.